Rose Garcia got much more than she bargained for when she made the trip from California to graduate from the RN to BSN online degree program at the University of Texas at Arlington in May 2016.
She discovered her future home state.
"From the beginning, I said I was absolutely committed to going when I graduated," Garcia explained. "My husband [Al] and I flew out. The campus was beautiful. We stayed in Dallas and went all around the area. We did a little mini vacation and had a wonderful time. We plan on retiring in the Texas hill country in the next 10 years. We loved it. It's so beautiful."
In 2005, Garcia earned an Associate of Nursing degree from College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California. As a native Californian, Garcia was not familiar with the Texas university; then she started doing her research. The quality of the UT Arlington nursing program and the convenience of the online format helped her decide to return to school.
"I could see that really was the direction our nursing profession was going," she said. "It was going to require higher levels of education. I went into the intensive care unit directly out of nursing school. I received my certification in Critical Care RN. I saw UTA's program was all online, so I figured I would give it a try."
No Time to Waste
Garcia is an RN Practice Manager of Primary Care at the Eisenhower George and Julia Argyros Health Center in La Quinta, California.
She manages 24 resident physicians, six faculty physicians and 16 additional employees at a residence clinic. So, the ability to work on a bachelor's degree while still working full-time was essential to facilitating her return to higher education.
"It allowed me to at least be home with my family," she said. "I worked full-time â€” even going through school. It allowed me to come home and do homework on evenings and on the weekends. Some classes were hard, but I got through it. You just take one class at a time. You need to be very committed and really have to have a schedule. Some things have to be put on the back burner."
Garcia said she found the course work in the online RN to BSN program both diverse and extremely insightful.
"I liked the nursing courses on the different populations," she said. "I deal with mostly senior citizens here at my job. One of the classes dealt directly with nursing with the older population, which I enjoyed quite a bit.
"I enjoyed the history classes, too. There are a lot of history classes you have to take at UTA that are not required with some of the other schools' curricula. It was interesting to learn about Texas history and to take all of the other history classes."
Garcia developed an interest in healthcare at a very young age while growing up in Palm Springs, California.
"Ever since I was a little girl, I just loved medicine," she said. "When I was 10 years old, my parents gave me an anatomy doll. I always loved to take care of people. I went into nursing later in life. I was in college and got sidetracked initially. I got married and started raising my children. Then, when they were in high school, I decided to go back to school."
Garcia worked as an executive secretary for a communications company before finally pursuing her true passion. She started as a critical care registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Eisenhower Medical Center shortly after she became the first person in her family to earn a college degree.
"My friends and family were absolutely supportive," she said. "Especially my husband. He was my rock, as were my kids [Brandon and Tyler] and my parents â€¦ my whole family."
Moving Forward, Inspiring Colleagues
Garcia said being in the University of Texas at Arlington online RN to BSN degree program allowed her to improve as a nurse and land her current position, which she started in September 2015.
"It helped me help my employer design some policies and procedures based on what I was learning concurrently in college," she said.
Garcia said she has encouraged several of her colleagues to also earn an online nursing degree.
"I've talked to a lot of people who are still kind of vacillating, 'Should I do it? Should I do it?'" she said. "I think I've even inspired other employees to go back because they could see it can be done."
While Garcia was enrolled at UT Arlington, she met Dean of Nursing Anne Bavier, who also serves as president of the National League for Nursing, at an ANCC National Magnet Conference a year before she graduated.
"When I was walking down the aisle for my degree, I reminded her and had a picture taken with her," Garcia said. "That was really nice."
Of course, Garcia also had to make a quick stop at the bookstore to pick up a UT Arlington alumni license plate frame for her car.
"The program was actually more than I expected," she added. "I really am very proud to say I'm a UTA graduate. It really helped to advance my career and myself as a nurse."
Learn more about the UTA online RN to BSN program.
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